Sickly Sweet: Insecticidal Polyols Induce Lethal Regurgitation in Dipteran Pests

Insects. 2019 Feb 12;10(2):53. doi: 10.3390/insects10020053.


Polyols are commonly used in food and medicines as sweeteners and preservatives but may also have insecticidal properties against some species of Diptera. Here we compared the insecticidal activity and feeding response of glycerol and propylene glycol (PG) on two tephritids: Anastrepha ludens and Anastrepha obliqua, and the drosophilid Drosophila suzukii. First, flies were exposed to solutions of 50% sucrose and the two polyols at concentrations of 1.67 M, 2.78 M and 4.18 M for 24 h and then observed at 24 h intervals for a period of three days. Both polyols elicited strong regurgitation behavior in the three flies and killed them. Regurgitation apparently also reduced flies' body weight, and this was particularly apparent in insects that fed on 4.18 M PG solutions. A high percentage of individuals exposed to PG solutions perished after 72 hours. The number of proboscis extensions, which is associated with feeding preference, was lower in the 4.18 M polyols + sucrose mixtures than in the 50% sucrose solution. Glycerol had a lower insecticidal effect in Anastrepha spp. and very little insecticidal effect in D. suzukii. Finally, elevated regurgitation and mortality was confirmed in A. ludens treated with 1.0⁻2.78 M of erythritol plus sucrose. Our results demonstrate that PG, and to a lower extent glycerol, have the potential for being used as a safer method of insect pest control. The hyper-regurgitation response may contribute to the insecticidal properties of these polyols in Diptera.

Keywords: dipterans; feeding; glycerol; propylene glycol; regurgitation; toxicity.